Petition 2017 #AC403 - 
A Way Forward Together

 

WHEREAS the Holy Spirit bestows gifts variously upon all God’s children, and the diversity of the human family mirrors the splendid diversity of all creation, and

WHEREAS differences of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are one manifestation of this splendid diversity of creation, and God’s declaration at creation, “It is good,” represents a wide and encompassing affirmation of life, including gender, sexuality and the natural variation in human sexual orientation and gender identity, and

WHEREAS untold suffering, familial and ecclesiastical rejection, emotional and spiritual violence, physical harm, and even death has fallen upon Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex children of God and continues to fall upon LGBTQI children of God as a result of religiously based prejudice and discrimination, and

WHEREAS the message of Christ, “As you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me,” is the guiding ethic of the church in all times and places, and

WHEREAS LGBTQI people are finding welcoming communities in the United Methodist Church and in the New York Annual Conference; they are finding clergy, laity and congregations embracing them joyfully as members of the body of Christ, as United Methodists in good standing, and as gifted children of God entitled equally to all the ministries, ceremonies and sacraments of the church, and

WHEREAS this welcoming spirit brings to life our conference’s decades-long commitment to inclusive ministry and also represents the future of the United Methodist Church, providing signs of repentance and welcome to younger generations, including LGBTQI individuals, who are questioning their place in a church that practices discrimination while proclaiming its doors to be open, and WHEREAS LGBTQI clergy and candidates for ministry are bringing to our church their passion for ministry, a love for God and for the people, a desire to serve, and a wide variety of gifts for ministry, and

WHEREAS embracing the gifts of all who are called to ministry and who seek to exercise their ministries in the United Methodist Church is essential for providing the best possible leadership for our congregations, and

WHEREAS the 2012 New York Annual Conference declared: “Leaders of the Annual Conference, including cabinet members, bishops, and members of boards and agencies of the annual conference are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies, and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of the United Methodist church and those who minister faithfully to them,” and

WHEREAS the 2014 New York Annual Conference declared itself to be a “place where LGBTQI persons can find safe space, an arena for the expression of and celebration of their individual gifts in service and ministry, enjoy the blessings of family and marriage, and participate fully, openly, and equally in the full life of the church,” and

WHEREAS the 2015 New York Annual Conference declared itself to be in solidarity with and in support of LGBTQI lay persons, clergy, candidates for ministry, and their families, and further declared as its sacred duty the protection of the full and equal participation of LGBTQI lay persons, clergy, candidates for ministry, and their families in the life of the church, and

WHEREAS the 2016 New York Annual Conference affirmed and celebrated the declaration of the New York Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry that “persons who seek to glorify God in word and deed and live under the lordship of Jesus Christ are invited to discern and explore their call toward ordination or licensing in the New York Conference. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not and will not be considered in the evaluation of candidates by the Board of Ordained Ministry,” and

WHEREAS the New York Annual Conference remains a beacon of hope not only for those within the boundaries of our annual conference, but for many struggling in places where neither welcome nor protection has been afforded to LGBTQI persons, and

WHEREAS the abusive treatment of LGBTQI clergy and candidates for ministry in the United Methodist Church harms not only those clergy and candidates and their loved ones; it also sends a harsh and hurtful signal to LGBTQI laypersons who worship and serve in a denomination that stigmatizes their identity, denies the validity of their marriages, and sends a chilling message to their children, and

WHEREAS, in an open letter from the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus published on Easter, April 16, 2017 more than 170 LGBTQI clergy representing 26 Annual Conferences, responding to punitive actions taken against LGBTQI sisters and brothers, declared:

     "As a guiding principle of our Wesleyan tradition, we value and hold ourselves to do no harm.” These briefs, along with complaints and charges filed against LGBTQI persons based solely on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, are harmful. They not only fracture the body of Christ and dehumanize LGBTQI persons, but do harm to Creation, preventing a path to God’s ‘more excellent way’ of love (1 Corinthians 12:31). These words and actions should be considered divisive by our ecclesiastical leaders and bodies. Hateful and narrow language, such as ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals’ does not define our sacred selves. These cases use our beloved families as weapons against us and reduce our loving relationships to sexual acts. They also drive seekers of Christ away and distract from our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We lead truthful, full and loving lives, some of us in relationships with cherished partners and spouses. We are mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and grandchildren. We are all ministers, who have been called by God, certified as candidates, licensed, commissioned and/or ordained, and consecrated.

     “We respond to God’s Great Commission to proclaim the good news to all people, and we intend to live into the reality of the beautiful, bold, diverse, and inclusive Body of Christ. We uphold our denomination’s call to inclusiveness. ‘Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the church, the community, and the world; therefore, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination’ (¶140 Book of Discipline). In following that vision and God’s call in our own lives, we answer to a higher authority than earthly institutional power and will not accept unjust laws when they run contrary to the Gospel," and

WHEREAS harshly punitive legislation to further heighten the oppressive situation for LGBTQI persons and those who minister with them on the basis of equality and dignity in the team in the United Methodist Church was approved in legislative committee at the 2016 General Conference, and

WHEREAS that proposed oppressive legislation was tabled at the 2016 General Conference as a result of fervent protest and courageous witness by members of the New York Annual Conference Delegation and a coalition of individuals and groups committed to protect LGBTQI sisters and brothers from yet more harm by the denomination, and 

WHEREAS the Judicial Council recently ruled that the South Central Jurisdiction has standing to challenge the Western Jurisdiction’s consecration of a bishop and that the Discipline “prohibits the consecration as bishop of a self-avowed practicing homosexual,” and

WHEREAS this case arose following the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto, a daughter of the New York Annual Conference and a gifted pastor and leader, and 

WHEREAS the Judicial Council also recently ruled that a Board of Ordained Ministry must make “full inquiry” into a candidate’s “fitness for ministry” and that the Discipline “prevents a Board of Ordained Ministry from ignoring statements of self-disclosure about any action that violates any portion of church law as is the case for these persons who avowed their homosexuality,” leading to potentially harmful, open ended, and discriminatory inquiry into the lives of LGBTQI persons who are called to ordained ministry, and

WHEREAS these actions of the Judicial Council do grave psychic and spiritual harm to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex persons among the clergy and laity of the United Methodist Church, and

WHEREAS the United Methodist Church has committed itself to the discernment of “A Way Forward.”

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the New York Annual Conference reaffirm its sacred commitment to celebrate and to honor the callings of all those whose qualifications and gifts for ministry among us have been discerned and tested by our District Committees on Ministry and our Board of Ordained Ministry, and to be especially vigilant in support of those LGBTQI clergy and candidates whose callings, character, and identities are under attack within our United Methodist Church, and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New York Annual Conference declare that we stand in support of every LGBTQI clergy person threatened with harm based upon unjust provisions of the UM Book of Discipline; and further that we stand with Bishop Karen Oliveto, a daughter of our own annual conference, as her standing as an elected bishop is being challenged; and further that the New York Conference celebrate Bishop Oliveto’s episcopal election as a visible demonstration of what is possible within The United Methodist Church when the gifts and call to ministry of LGBTQI persons are recognized and fully valued, and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New York Conference declare that our way forward is the way of a just, inclusive, loving church that embraces the full spectrum of the children of God.  

Co-sponsored by: Methodists in New Directions, The United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, NYAC Board of Church and Society

Signed by: Bruce Lamb, Alex Souto, Ron Tompkins, Sara Thompson Tweedy, Paul Fleck, Michael Cobb, Scott Summerville, Elyse Ambrose, Brian Bodt, Melissa Boyer, Elizabeth Jones, Jason Radmacher, Thomas Carney, Mickey Correa, Hermon L. Darden Jr., Mary Edwards-Ransom, Karen Eiler, Carolyn Hardin Engelhardt, Vicki Flippin, Alexis Francisco, Lois McCullen Parr, Kathleen Reynolds, Roy Grubbs, Wongee Joh, Lea A. Matthews, Siobhan Sargent, Matt Schaeffer, Cathy Schuyler, Althea Spencer Miller, Charlotte Patton, Karen G. Prudente, Jeff Wells, Bill Pfohl, Kristina Hansen

2017 Pre-Conference Reports/Petitions to The New York Annual Conference – Draft – 5/9/2017